May is National Bike Month and a perfect opportunity to get some fresh air and practice social distancing — even when and if quarantines have been lifted.
Biking has many benefits — it’s a low-impact exercise, and something you can do on your own or with friends. It’s safe and fun, particularly when you take the time to learn how to be a confident cyclist.
Although many bike-related events have been canceled or postponed for May, you can still get started with biking safely through some online resources.
The city of Eugene occasionally offers a class called “Confident Cyclist,” as well as another called “Smart Cyclist,” says Shane Rhodes, transportation options coordinator. Eugene’s version of the online course is 90 minutes, a condensed version of the original eight-hour course based on curriculum by the League of American Bicyclists, with classroom time and on-the-bike time.
“We cover the basics, rules of the road and defensive biking techniques,” Rhodes says. “And then we encourage people to come to a social ride that we host, usually the week after the class, when we do a community ride.”
Last year about 20 people took the class, while many others participated in the ride. It’s open to all ages and abilities but geared to those ages 16 and older. Some of the tips include positioning within a lane before making a turn, biking alongside traffic and using the right gears for safety — helpful even if you’re not new to biking.
“The classroom portion has really great information for people who aren’t feeling very confident about cycling,” Rhodes says. “Maybe they haven’t biked in a while and they want to get back out on the bike or just want to feel more comfortable with their biking skills. There are a lot of safety measures that we like to focus on.”
While riders over age 16 are not required to wear a helmet, it is recommended. Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities to follow the rules of the road that car drivers do — one-way streets are one-way streets for bikes as well as cars.
Cyclists do have the right to be in the road if they need to claim the full lane for safety reasons. This might be to stay out of the “door zone,” to avoid other hazards in the road, or simply because the lane is not wide enough for a car and bike to share the space. The class covers safety and gear, including proper helmet fitting techniques, and avoidance maneuvers in case they do come close to having a crash.
“We encourage people to be courteous and when it’s clear and safe to do so, to move over to the side of the road a little bit to let someone pass, and then move back into the middle of the lane,” she says. “But it’s legal for bikes to be in the middle of the lane when it’s the safest and best place for them to be so we remind people of that.”
If you are a cyclist in the bike lane, car drivers are legally required to yield before they turn in front of you, but of course, that doesn’t always happen. One of the most common crashes is the “right hook,” where vehicles pass you and turn in front of you.
A smart cyclist is always extra cautious around streets and driveways when people might turn right in front, Rhodes says. It’s also important to note that cyclists can ride side by side, unless they are blocking the normal flow of traffic, in which case they should move to single file.
An exciting change to biking is the access, Rhodes says. Not only are there new bike lanes and bike paths, many are discovering the activity because of new electric bicycles — 130 million e-bikes are expected to be sold globally between 2020 and 2023, according to research by Deloitte.
It’s clear that the fastest-growing segment in the bike market is electric, and e-bike ownership is expected to surge as Europe passes aggressive carbon emission reduction policies, and the Trump administration attempts to roll back previous rules on improving fuel efficiency.
“With e-bikes, you still have to pedal, but they allow people to get out and ride more and they knock down barriers of hills and distance that might stop people from riding as much,” Rhodes says.
Even though you’ll still have to maintain your social distance, the Eugene and Springfield areas have many and varied bike paths and friendly recreational riding groups that are easy to join.
“We have some great path systems here,” she says. “It makes it easy for both recreational riding and commuting to and from work.”
GEARs (Greater Eugene Area Riders), eugenegears.org. A non-profit promoting and encouraging bicycle riding for transportation and recreation; members are active in trail maintenance and stewardship.
Eugene Velo Cycle Club, eugenevelo.org. Different team and club weekly rides and events. Members receive weekly email updates and detailed route mapping.
Disciples of Dirt, disciplesofdirt.org. Members share a passion for mountain biking and are active with trail maintenance and stewardship.
Eugene Bicycle Maps, eugene-or.gov/1849/Bike-Maps
Springfield Bicycle Maps, springfield-or.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Springfield2016_WEB.pdf
Bicycle Way of Life Cycling Club, bicycleway.com. This local bike shop usually offers easy, social bike rides through Eugene and Springfield. Check their Facebook page for updated details. These rides are mostly intended for adults, with kids welcome.